Novelists set to talk about their new works at book shop
PUBLISHED: 09:52 14 April 2019 | UPDATED: 09:52 14 April 2019
A debut novelist who has written a book about four female scientists inventing a time travel machine, and an occupational psychologist who has documented decades of work supporting junior doctors, are giving talks at Hart's Books in Saffron Walden.
Author Kate Mascarenhas, 38, trained as a psychologist but returned to writing when she was 32 after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Her book, The Psychology of Time Travel, is about four female scientists who invent a time travel machine. One of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril.
“I was interested in the psychology of recruiting astronauts and how they look for a combination of physical and mental traits for the job. I thought it would be interesting if time travel took the place of space travel,” Kate said.
Kate explained that her own experience enters the narrative through the character of Barbara, who suffers with mental health issues.
“When I was writing it, I drew on my experiences with bipolar disorder,” she said. “I haven’t experienced discrimination like her character, but I know it exists. People with mental health issues are often excluded or not fully understood.
“My experience of mental health problems is what informed the emotional strains of the book and my psychology background is what informed the intellectual side of the book.”
Despite writing a novel when she was 21, Kate said her diagnosis at the age of 32 was the start of a new chapter for her.
“It was at that point that I was able to commit to my writing,” she said. “Training as a psychologist was really valuable and coming back to writing when I was a little bit older was much better. I had much more focus when I was in my 30s after I got my diagnosis.
“A diagnosis is not a sentence and I think it’s helpful to other people who are going through the same to know it can be the start of something good.”
With her first book finished, Kate’s second book is almost ready for publication - it’s about a group of female doll makers in Oxford.
“It’s female-focused again - people always assume the man is the protagonist, even if he has a small part, so I wanted to see how far I could push having a female story. That was my personal motivation,” she said. “And quite often in science there have been big discoveries by women which have been forgotten about. In my book, it’s difficult to marginalise female time travellers when they are so visible.”
Dr Caroline Elton, 61, author of Also Human, worked as an occupational psychologist until 2014 when she left to focus on writing her book. Her job in the NHS was to work with junior doctors fresh out of medical school to decide which specialist pathway to take.
“But what was coming my way was very different,” Caroline said. “It was much more about junior doctors facing distress. The same issues came up time and time again.”
Drawing on case studies from her clients, Caroline’s book presents a humane examination of the inner lives of doctors.
“It’s the culture which needs to change,” Caroline said. “Historically, when doctors are struggling, it has been treated as an individual issue, but I think people are beginning to see that it’s a systemic issue.
“The doctors have to act as though they are never affected by what they are doing. Any sense of vulnerability is pushed away. But if we don’t look after them, they can’t look after us. We really need to think about how we support doctors - they are also human. Doctors need to be cared for too.”
Caroline Elton will be speaking at Hart’s Books on Monday at 6.30pm and Kate Mascarenhas will be giving her talk on Wednesday, April 24, at 6.30pm.
Tickets £5, available over the phone on 01799 524 552 or in-store.